Comments are closed. Border closures force Palestinians out of workOn 1 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today Employment prospects for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”are absolutely desperate”, according to Samir Radwan, specialadviser to the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the territories. “Before the latest intifada [uprising against Israeli occupation],which began in September 2000, 120,000 Palestinians crossed the border daily towork in Israel. Now the number is down to 5,000, with many of them workingillegally,” he said. A report recently published by the Office of the United Nations SpecialCoordinator in the occupied territories (UNSCO) also high-lighted the effectsof border closures and mobility restrictions on the Palestinian economy, sayingthey were the primary cause for the rapid economic deterioration witnessedsince the since the start of the intifada. “As a direct result of thefirst 15 months of border closures and internal movement restrictions, thePalestinian economy has shrunk by more than 30 per cent; unemployment has increasedby 15 per cent; per capita, income has declined 24 per cent, and the povertyrate more than doubled to 46 per cent,” said the report. UNSCO estimated that unemployment, including discouraged workers (those nolonger looking for employment), at the end of 2001 had reached 50 per cent inGaza and 30 per cent in the West Bank. “Since then,” says Radwan,”there has been another tremendous rise in unemployment – reaching as highas 68 per cent, according to some sources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”At the same time, poverty is becoming an increasingly serious problem. Thelatest assessment of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and CulturalOrganization (UNESCO) is that some 80 per cent of Palestinians are living onless than $2 a day. Ways of helping Palestinians cope with the employment difficulties wereproposed in a report to the 90th session of the Inter-national LabourConference in Geneva last June, by the director-general of the ILO, JuanSomavia. Talking in terms of “an economy grinding to a halt”, thereport said the ILO should “immediately reassess existing programmes oftechnical co-operation in the light of the new situation and the prioritiesresulting from the present humanitarian crisis. This should be done within sixweeks of the end of the conference in co-operation with Palestinian tripartiteconstituents, the donor community and interested parties.” But such has been the intensity of violence and the extent of Israelioccupation and closures since then that little has been achieved. Nevertheless,Radwan says the ILO is still “trying to help Palestinians face up to theirdire situation. Our top priority is the creation of a Palestinian fund foremployment and social protection.” Another priority is an attempt to activate local markets. Not only have tensof thou-sands of Palestinians been unable to cross into Israel to find work,but private sector businesses inside towns and cities in the West Bank and GazaStrip have been severely affected. So tight are the restrictions on travel in andaround the Palestinian territories, that importing goods has become extremelydifficult. “It now costs more to trans-port goods from the Israeli port ofAshdod to Ramallah in the West Bank – a journey of less than an hour undernormal circum-stances – than it does to ship the goods from Shanghai toAshdod,” said Radwan To ease the plight of unemployed Palestinians trapped in towns and villagesacross the territories, the ILO is also urging international donors to providefunds to create jobs to keep people occupied, particularly youth and women whoare bearing the brunt of the intifada. Radwan points out that “half of thePalestinian population is under 40 years of age, and most of the unemployed areyouths. If they have nothing to do all day, of course they will take to thestreets and throw stones. It is in everyone’s interests to deal with theunemployment and poverty – especially to Israel’s security,” he said. Somavia is to report back to the governing body of the International LabourConference next November on the measures taken by the ILO thus far. But until apolitical solution brings an end to the violence and the closures, Palestinianunemployment is likely to remain a grave problem. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.
New code aims to end two-tier tears
An absence too far